ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) DePaul is one of the nation’s highest scoring teams. However, its defense took over Tuesday night.
The Blue Demons held No. 24 Seton Hall to 42-percent shooting in a 78-68 victory over the top-seeded Pirates for DePaul’s second consecutive Big East tournament title and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
”They defended better than I’ve seen them play in all the games I’ve watched, and their experience showed,” Seton Hall coach Tony Bozzella said.
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The Pirates also shot just 3 for 14 from beyond the arc in their first loss to DePaul in three games this season. It was a far different result from when Seton Hall routed the Blue Demons 107-87 in January.
”We just had much more defensive purpose, cleanliness, persistence, relentlessness,” DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. ”The game plan was a really solid game plan. My assistants are great game planners.”
Megan Podkowa scored 19 points, Chanise Jenkins added 16 and Centrese McGee had a season-high 14 points for the second-seeded Blue Demons (26-7).
Ka-Deidre Simmons had 23 points, Tiffany Jones had 14 and Daisha Simmons added 12 for Seton Hall (28-5), which fell to 0-4 in Big East championship games. DePaul face-guarded Tabatha Richardson-Smith, who finished with six points on 3-of-8 shooting after averaging a team-high 18.2 points.
”Every time I drove, I saw blue shirts,” Simmons said. ”I looked for my teammates and I didn’t see them open either. It was tough.”
Big East Player of the Year Brittany Hrynko added 12 points and nine assists for the Blue Demons, who have won seven straight. Podkowa was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.
DePaul, one of the nation’s top 3-point shooting teams, went 9 for 23 beyond the arc and shot 55 percent from the field.
The teams were co-conference champions in the regular season. Seton Hall won both regular-season matchups to claim the top seed.
”First two times that we played them, our defense wasn’t there and our rebounding wasn’t there,” Podkowa said. ”We all came in ready to play and ready to rebound and defend against them.”
Seton Hall is expected to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Bozzella said his team deserves to be a No. 6 or 7 seed.
”We’ve gone on the road and played tough teams, and this clearly is a team that deserves a high seed in the NCAA Tournament and a team that deserves respect for the 38 games we’ve played throughout the year, not the one game that we’ve played in the Big East finals on the road,” Bozzella said.
The Blue Demons scored the first eight points of the second half and went on a 16-4 run for a 51-33 lead to match their biggest advantage. Seton Hall got no closer than 10.
”We just had to keep our foot on the pedal,” Jenkins said.
DePaul: The Blue Demons entered the game ranked second in Division I in scoring average (87.1 ppg) and 3-pointers per game (10.5). They have made a school-record 346 3-pointers this season. … DePaul won its sixth conference tournament title, including its second in the Big East. … The Blue Demons lead the all-time series against Seton Hall 11-3.
Seton Hall: The Pirates reached the final for the first time since 1995. … Seton Hall was second in the conference in scoring at 76.1 points per game. … The Pirates entered the AP Top 25 poll on Dec. 29 at No. 23 for its first national ranking since 1995.
DePaul will appear in its 20th NCAA Tournament. The Blue Demons reached the Sweet 16 for the third time last season.